Poor citizens of a rich state (December 11, 2012)


Gujarat is developed substantially in terms of Net State Domestic Product (NSDP), yet remains in the same position compared to five states leading it. It only means that Gujarat had to run to stand where it has been because the five states ahead of it have been running faster.

Gujarat is one of the prosperous states. However, the prosperity has not percolated deeper, which means this rich state has more poor citizens than some states which are less prosperous than Gujarat. In short, it is a rich state with a lot of poor citizens.

It goes on to show that the development has not been inclusive, and it has been focused on making rich people richer without bothering to provide jobs and other sources of livelihood for the poor. The darker side of the development story is that Gujarat has emerged as a state with a high level of hunger, as per IFPRI. So far, the IFPRI figures on hunger are reputed to be the most authentic.

There are many more hungry people in Gujarat compared to Punjab, Kerala, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Its hunger situation is as bad as Bihar’s and Orissa’s and only Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are really worse off.

On the other hand, the front-running states, in whose league Gujarat is placed, like Punjab, Kerala and Haryana, have the least hungry population. Even Uttar Pradesh has a less hungry population. The explanation could be that UP’s agricultural lands are under multi-crop cultivation, irrigated largely by the perennially flowing Ganga. However, successive governments’ pro-farmer policies have to be taken into account. Gujarat’s farmers, prone to suicide, do not have the support of a progressive government.

Compared to Gujarat, even the poor in UP have some access to food. Significantly, incomes are more evenly distributed in UP, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Possibly because of pro-poor policies of its government, even Rajasthan’s population is less hungry compared to Gujarat’s.

The Hunger Index is a measure derived aggregating the three variables: (1) prevalence of caloric undernourishment using the FAO-recommended 1820 Kcal cut off, which is much lower than the Planning Commission cutoff (2) average Body Mass Index, total of thin men and women (3) average of children stunted, wasted and underweight.

Despite being among the richer states (placed at number 6), Gujarat figures at the ninth place in human development Index largely because of anti-poor government policies. “Higher position in human development ranking relative to poverty is an indication of a pro-people welfare state” is the theoretical position. This pro-people stance in policy is lacking in Gujarat.

On the other hand, the case is just the opposite in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and even in Orissa, which have a higher HDI ranking compared to their respective ranking in per capita income till the mid-2000s, up to when figures are available.

Keeping all this in view, let us ask whom has the Modi government been serving. Is it only for the rich? And, whom does “development” benefit? Does the aam aadmi matter in Gujarat? Or, is it only for the khaas aadmi? Arvind Kejriwal is of the opinion that Modi is concerned only about the khaas aadmi. Let the people think over it.

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